This week I highlight the government’s review into sexual abuse in schools and updates from the DfE in relation to face coverings in secondary schools, changes to asymptomatic testing requirements and the resumption of educational visits.
Government review into sexual abuse in schools
Following numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited the DfE has set up a new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in education settings. Run by the NSPCC, the dedicated number (0800 136 663), provides both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with the appropriate support and advice.
The government has also asked Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools. The review will look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council. The review will conclude by the end of May 2021 and will seek to establish where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.
DfE Covid-19 update
Face coverings – during the Easter break the government confirmed that face coverings should continue to be worn in secondary school classrooms as a precautionary measure when students returned after the Easter break. It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required to be worn in classrooms, or by students in other communal areas, at step 3 of the government’s roadmap, which will be no earlier than 17 May.
Changes to Asymptomatic testing requirements – the DfE has updated its guidance in line with the Department for Health and Social Care’s announcement that a confirmatory PCR test is required within two days of a positive lateral flow test result in England. This means that negative PCR tests will now overrule a positive lateral flow test, so self-isolating pupils and staff can return to their schools and their contacts may also stop self-isolating.
Educational visits – educational day visits were permitted to take place from 12 April and from 17 May, residential trips will return. Full details of the government’s reintroduction of school trips is available on the DfE’s website.